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The Directors

The Directors: Chris Ranson

STADIUM director on letting work go, his love of documentaries and trying new techniques

The Directors: Chris Ranson

Chris is an award-winning London based director.

He likes to combine his original artistic approach with a commercial sensibility. From his roots as a film and commercials editor he seamlessly made the transition to director. Chris loves to blend his naturalistic approach in a cinematic way, bringing his experience of narrative cinema to everything he works on.


Name: Chris Ranson

Location: London

Repped by/in: STADIUM

Awards: Webby Award 2021 for 'Best Music Video', VOTD


LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Chris> I don’t know if it’s a specific element, I think anything that allows your mind to wander in terms of narrative and visuals. Something that isn’t prescriptive. The best scripts for me are ones that you can give you a sniff of what could be and that’s exciting. 


LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Chris> If I’m unaware of the brand I’ll do some research into them and get a sense of their identity. Then I’ll start thinking quite broadly about ideas and looking through any references that I have and see if anything sparks me into life. When I’m not working on projects I try and watch as many things as possible and look at as many photographs or photographers as I can and if something stands out to me I bookmark it for another time.

Once I’ve got an idea for the spot I’ll then start writing- usually on notes on my phone at first. At first it’s just a mind dump of everything that can be done within it, then I break it down into chapters that Ill be using on the treatments and refine it more and more from there.


LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Chris> I do think it’s important however when you’re pitching it’s usually for something new, so I try not to get too bogged down in their previous work. 


LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Chris> I think there’s a couple. I would say the relationship with the creative director and/ or creative is one of the most important. If you don’t have good communication with them then you’re unlikely to make the spot as good as it can be. You need them on board for anything you want to do.

The other relationship is the DOP, without doubt. Most of my stuff has been shot by Stefan Yap and we’ve worked together for about nine years so it’s a really easy shorthand now and that makes our lives a lot easier on set.


LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Chris> Anything genuine. I love documentary and commercials, so anything that can combine the both.


LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Chris> That I’m also a creative in an ad agency (that’s actually my twin brother, James!).


LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

Chris> Not directly but I’m sure on every job I’ve been on has one.


LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Chris> I think when we were shooting an Adidas spot in Madrid on a airport runway and it started to snow really heavily. We were about to shoot inside this hangar and one of the camera dept noticed that the roof was swelling with water. Within about five minutes a section of the roof collapsed, covering the freshly painted floor in water- all this whilst the talent was on his way to set. I think every single person on that set had to take towels, brooms, industrial heaters and try and clear it and dry it within about 20 mins. I then had to try and shot list an alternative version of the spot in a new dry location in case we couldn’t shoot here which was pretty mad but luckily we managed to dry it out in time and the talent had no idea. Phew.  


LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Chris> I think you always have to protect your idea and fight for what you think will make the spot better, but I do also believe it’s a collaborative process so it’s important to take suggestions/ steers from the agency and client and not turn it into a me against them situation. I think as long as you’re all honest and can back up your suggestions then it’s all good.


LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Chris> I think it’s a great idea and about time. I’m always happy to help in anyway I can. 


LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Chris> I think I have more patience and also more sympathy for producers! Hopefully both of those stick around for the long term. 


LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

Chris> I think it’s hard to satisfy all formats at once, and with the same love and quality. I go into each spot knowing what the hero format is and then work the rest around that- and so far that’s worked ok (touch wood). 


LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Chris> I’ve not used too much but I’m always open to trying new techniques.


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